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Friday, March 23, 2012

Bahrain: Reform, Security, and U.S. Policy


Kenneth Katzman
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs

An uprising that began in Bahrain on February 14, 2011, following the revolt that overthrew Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak three days earlier, began a political crisis that defies resolution. Bahrain’s unrest demonstrates that Shiite grievances over the distribution of power and economic opportunities were not satisfied by the efforts during 1999-2010 to increase the role of the Shiite majority in governance; most Bahraini Shiites now say they seek a constitutional monarchy in which governments are established by an elected parliament. Reflecting increasing polarization, many Sunnis in Bahrain believe the Shiite majority will settle for nothing less than outright rule. As protests escalated in March 2011, Bahrain’s government rejected U.S. advice by inviting direct security assistance from other Gulf Cooperation Council countries, declaring a state of emergency, forcefully suppressing demonstrations, and arresting dissident leaders and proopposition health care workers. Although the state of emergency ended on June 1, 2011, the continued imprisonment of dissidents contributed to the resulting failure of a “national dialogue,” held in July 2011, to reach agreement on more than just a few political reform recommendations. Hopes for resolution were raised by a pivotal report by a government-appointed “Independent Commission of Inquiry” (BICI) on the unrest, released November 23, 2011, which was critical of the government’s actions against the unrest as well as the opposition’s responses to government proposals early in the crisis. The government, through an appointed national commission, has implemented most of the BICI recommendations and says it will institute the remainder, but the stalemate on major political reforms has contributed to the resumption of demonstrations and dashed hopes that a complete solution is in sight.

The Obama Administration has not called for a change of the Al Khalifa regime, but it has opposed the regime’s use of force against protesters and urged further political reform. The U.S. position on Bahrain has been criticized by those who believe the United States is downplaying regime abuses because the U.S. security relationship with the Al Khalifa regime is critical to U.S. efforts to contain Iran and secure the Persian Gulf more broadly. In exchange for a tacit security guarantee against Iran or other aggressors, Bahrain has provided key support for U.S. interests by hosting U.S. naval headquarters for the Gulf for over 60 years and by providing facilities and small numbers of personnel for U.S. war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. U.S. officials are concerned that the instability in Bahrain could render U.S. use of the naval headquarters facilities untenable, but there are no evident moves to relocate it. Beyond the naval facility, the United States signed a formal defense pact with Bahrain in 1991 and has designated Bahrain as a “major non-NATO ally,” entitling it to sales of sophisticated U.S. weapons systems. Bahrain also receives small amounts of U.S. security assistance. New U.S. sales and aid are coming under criticism from human rights and other groups and, in response, the Administration put on hold a significant proposed sale of armored vehicles and anti-tank weapons while approving smaller sales of military spare parts. Factoring into the U.S. position is a perception that Iran might seek to take advantage of Shiite unrest in Bahrain to reduce U.S. influence and the U.S. military presence in the Persian Gulf. Consumed by its own crisis, Bahrain has joined with but deferred to other GCC powers in initiatives to resolve uprisings in Libya, Syria, and Yemen.

Fueling Shiite unrest is the fact that Bahrain, having largely run out of crude oil reserves, is poorer than most of the other Persian Gulf monarchies. The country has tried to compensate through diversification, particularly with banking and some manufacturing. In September 2004, the United States and Bahrain signed a free trade agreement (FTA); legislation implementing it was signed January 11, 2006 (P.L. 109-169). The unrest in 2011 has further strained Bahrain’s economy.



Date of Report: March
15, 2012
Number of Pages:
35
Order Number:
95-1013
Price: $29.95

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Afghanistan: Post-Taliban Governance, Security, and U.S. Policy


Kenneth Katzman
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs

The Obama Administration and several of its partner countries appear to be seeking to wind down U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan more rapidly than was previously envisioned. Stated U.S. policy is to ensure that Afghanistan will not again become a base for terrorist attacks against the United States. Following policy reviews in 2009, the Obama Administration asserted that it was pursuing a well-resourced and integrated military-civilian strategy intended to pave the way for a gradual transition to Afghan leadership from July 2011 until the end of 2014. During 2009 and 2010, 51,000 U.S. forces were added, bringing U.S. troop numbers to a high of about 99,000, with partners providing about 42,000. On June 22, 2011, President Obama announced that the policy had accomplished most major U.S. goals and that a drawdown of 33,000 U.S. troops would take place by September 2012—the first 10,000 were withdrawn by the end of 2011 and the remainder of that number will leave by September 2012. The transition to Afghan leadership began, as planned, in July 2011, and Afghan forces are now in the lead in areas that include over 50% of all Afghans. On February 1, 2012, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta indicated that U.S. military involvement would transition from combat to a training and advisory mission by mid- 2013, although without specifying a drawdown schedule through the end of 2014. However, an accelerated transition may be hampered by rifts between some Afghan forces and their U.S.-led mentors over the mistaken U.S. burnings of several Qurans in late February 2012.

The Administration view is that security gains achieved by the surge could be at risk from weak Afghan governance and insurgent safe haven in Pakistan, and that Afghanistan will still need direct security assistance after 2014. Afghan governance is perceived as particularly weak and corrupt, despite the holding of regular elections since 2004 and the establishment of several overlapping anti-corruption institutions. In order to frame the long-term security relationship, U.S. and Afghan officials are negotiating a “strategic partnership,” although differences over U.S. latitude to conduct operations and to hold detainees have held up completion of that pact to date.

As the transition proceeds, there is increasing emphasis on negotiating a settlement to the conflict. Among signs of possible progress, in January 2012, the Taliban announced it would open a political office in Qatar for talks with U.S. representatives. Subsequently, the Afghan government said it would likely pursue separate talks with the group and Pakistan publicly supported the Taliban’s decision to negotiate. However, there are major concerns about Taliban sincerity to negotiate. Even if the movement is sincere, Afghanistan’s minorities and women’s groups fear that reconciliation might produce compromises that erode human rights and ethnic power-sharing. U.S. officials also hope to draw on Afghanistan’s vast mineral and agricultural resources to promote long-term growth and prevent a severe economic downturn as international donors scale back their involvement in Afghanistan. Several major privately funded mining, agricultural, and even energy development programs have begun in the past few years, with more in various stages of consideration. U.S. officials also look to greater Afghanistan integration into regional trade and investment patterns—as part of a “New Silk Road (NSR)” economic strategy—to help compensate for the reduction in foreign economic involvement in Afghanistan. Still, Afghanistan will likely remain dependent on foreign aid until 2025. Through the end of FY2011, the United States has provided over $67 billion in assistance to Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban, of which about $39 billion has been to equip and train Afghan forces. During FY2001-FY2011, the Afghan intervention has cost about $443 billion, including all costs. For FY2012, about $16 billion in aid (including train and equip) is to be provided, in addition to about $90 billion for U.S. military operations there, and $9.2 billion in aid is requested for FY2013. (See CRS Report RS21922, Afghanistan: Politics, Elections, and Government Performance, by Kenneth Katzman.)



Date of Report: March
8, 2012
Number of Pages:
92
Order Number: R
L30588
Price: $29.95

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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Iraq: Politics, Governance, and Human Rights


Kenneth Katzman
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs

Immediately following the completion of the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq on December 18, 2011, relations among major political factions worsened substantially, threatening Iraq’s stability and the legacy of the U.S. intervention in Iraq. Sunni Arabs, always fearful that Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki would seek unchallenged power for Shiite factions allied with him, accuse him of an outright power grab as he seeks to purge the two highest ranking Sunni Arabs from government (a deputy President and deputy Prime Minister). The Sunnis have sought to enlist the help of the Kurds to curb Maliki’s perceived ambitions; the Kurds also distrust Maliki over territorial, political, and economic issues. The political crisis threatens to undo the relatively peaceful political competition and formation of cross-sectarian alliances that had emerged since 2007 following several years of sectarian conflict. Some Sunni insurgents groups apparently seek to undermine Maliki by conducting high profile attacks intended to reignite sectarian conflict.

The splits within Iraq’s government that widened since mid-December 2011 have called into question many of the assumptions underpinning the decision to complete the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, in line with a November 2008 bilateral U.S.-Iraq Security Agreement. The full withdrawal was announced on October 21, 2011. U.S. negotiations during most of 2011 with Iraqi leaders—eager to assert sovereignty after eight years of U.S. tutelage—failed to extend the agreement to allow for the presence of 3,000—5,000 U.S. forces after 2011. The U.S. offer to retain troops was based on lingering U.S. doubts over the ability of Iraqi leaders and security forces to preserve the earlier gains. As U.S. troops withdrew, Administration officials asserted publicly—and perhaps contrary to internal U.S. assessments—that Iraq’s governing and security capacity is sufficient to continue to build democracy, enact long delayed national oil laws, and undertake other measures without a major U.S. military presence. Iraq’s security forces number over 650,000 members, increasingly well armed and well trained—enough to justify selling Iraq such sophisticated equipment as U.S. F-16 aircraft. Some movement on national oil laws had occurred since August 2011. The assertions have sought to rebut outside criticism that Iraq’s factions lacked focus on governance, or on improving key services, such as electricity.

The view of the Administration and others is that Iraqi factions, with U.S. and other help, will also be willing and able to resist increased Iranian influence in Iraq. The Administration states that U.S. training will continue using programs for Iraq similar to those with other countries in which there is no U.S. troop presence, and about 16,000 U.S. personnel, including contractors, remain in Iraq under State Department authority to exert U.S. influence. Perhaps because Iraqi leaders are asserting increasing independence from U.S. mentorship, the State Department said in February 2012 that it is considering a significant reduction in U.S. personnel in Iraq. Continuing the security relationship in the absence of U.S. troops in Iraq, and developing the civilian bilateral relationship, was the focus of the U.S. visit of Prime Minister Maliki on December 12, 2011.



Date of Report: February 23, 2012
Number of Pages: 49
Order Number: RS21968
Price: $29.95

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Bahrain: Reform, Security, and U.S. Policy


Kenneth Katzman
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs

An uprising that began in Bahrain on February 14, 2011, following the revolt that overthrew Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak three days earlier, began a political crisis that defies resolution. Bahrain’s unrest demonstrates that Shiite grievances over the distribution of power and economic opportunities were not satisfied by the efforts during 1999-2010 to increase the role of the Shiite majority in governance; most Bahraini Shiites now say they seek a constitutional monarchy in which governments are established by an elected parliament. Reflecting increasing polarization, many Sunnis in Bahrain believe the Shiite majority will settle for nothing less than outright rule. As protests escalated in March 2011, Bahrain’s government bucked U.S. advice by inviting direct security assistance from other Gulf Cooperation Council countries, declaring a state of emergency, forcefully suppressing demonstrations, and arresting dissident leaders and proopposition health care workers. Although the state of emergency ended on June 1, 2011, the continued imprisonment of dissidents contributed to the resulting failure of a “national dialogue,” held in July 2011, to reach agreement on more than just a few political reform recommendations. Hopes for resolution were raised by a pivotal report by a government-appointed “Independent Commission of Inquiry” (BICI) on the unrest, released November 23, 2011, which was critical of the government’s actions against the unrest as well as the opposition’s responses to government proposals early in the crisis. The government, through an appointed national commission, has begun to implement most of the BICI recommendations, but the stalemate on major political reforms has contributed to the resumption of some renewed violent demonstrations and dashed hopes that a complete solution is in sight.

The Obama Administration has not called for a change of the Al Khalifa regime, but it has opposed the regime’s use of force against protesters and urged further and faster political reform. The U.S. position on Bahrain has been criticized by those who believe the United States is downplaying regime abuses because the U.S. security relationship with the Al Khalifa regime is critical to U.S. efforts to contain Iran and preserve security in the Persian Gulf more broadly. In exchange for a tacit security guarantee against Iran or other aggressors, Bahrain has provided key support for U.S. interests by hosting U.S. naval headquarters for the Gulf for over 60 years and by providing facilities and small numbers of personnel for U.S. war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. U.S. officials are concerned that the instability in Bahrain could render U.S. use of the naval headquarters facilities untenable, but there are no evident moves to relocate it. Beyond the naval facility, the United States signed a formal defense pact with Bahrain in 1991 and has designated Bahrain as a “major non-NATO ally,” entitling it to sales of sophisticated U.S. weapons systems. Bahrain also receives small amounts of U.S. security assistance. New U.S. sales and aid are coming under criticism from human rights and other groups and, in response, the Administration put on hold a significant proposed sale of armored vehicles and anti-tank weapons while approving smaller sales of military spare parts. Factoring into the U.S. position is a perception that Iran might seek to take advantage of Shiite unrest in Bahrain to reduce U.S. influence and the U.S. military presence in the Persian Gulf. Consumed by its own crisis, Bahrain has joined with but deferred to other GCC powers in initiatives to resolve uprisings in Libya, Syria, and Yemen.

Fueling Shiite unrest is the fact that Bahrain, having largely run out of crude oil reserves, is poorer than most of the other Persian Gulf monarchies. The country has tried to compensate through diversification, particularly with banking and some manufacturing. In September 2004, the United States and Bahrain signed a free trade agreement (FTA); legislation implementing it was signed January 11, 2006 (P.L. 109-169). The unrest in 2011 has further strained Bahrain’s economy.



Date of Report: February 21, 2012
Number of Pages: 34
Order Number: 95-1013
Price: $29.95

Follow us on TWITTER at
http://www.twitter.com/alertsPHP or #CRSreports

Document available via e-mail as a pdf file or in paper form.
To order, e-mail Penny Hill Press or call us at 301-253-0881. Provide a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover card number, expiration date, and name on the card. Indicate whether you want e-mail or postal delivery. Phone orders are preferred and receive priority processing.